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Escape to Little Finland

By Debbie Miller Marschke

Steve and I hit the road in early September on a loosely planned trip that found us spending some time in Mesquite, Nevada. We found our way to the Virgin Valley Museum, enjoying the displays and artifacts; it’s worth a stop because it has a treasure trove of unique items. I also had an ulterior motive, I was hoping to find a source that had specific directions to a place I had heard of, “Little Finland.” Luckily, I hit paydirt when talking to the museum docent. Not only did she know what I was talking about, she photocopied all the hand drawn maps that folks had shared with the museum. This made me extremely happy, because I only had a vague idea of how to find the place.

Armed with the locally sourced materials, we hit the road and headed towards Gold Butte National Monument. We now had our treasure maps, complete with the “x” marking the “spot”!

We had been provided with several maps that had other interesting destinations, so it was tempting to become distracted along the way. All I can say is…we need to come back again when the DE is running trips and the weather is good!

The road into Gold Butte National Monument was unmaintained dirt.  For at least 20 miles we endured a hellish washboard that had us worrying that our vehicle’s nuts and bolts would be shaken loose before we arrived.  Airing down helped a little bit, but not enough.  I really wish folks would just put their vehicles in 4WD right away and stop making more washboard!  The washboard was so awful, we actually discussed turning back.  But both of us were suffering from extreme cabin fever, we needed a good adventure.

We had a late start to Little Finland after time spent in the Museum.  We had to pass many interesting features, like Whitney Pockets, just to make sure we did not run out of time (we did not have our camping gear in the Jeep).  Whitney Pockets reminded me of Valley of Fire, with its colorful sandstones and features that yelled out for us to stop.  We had to keep going, but we’ll be back sometime to check that out.

We came to a decision point on our maps: there was a short cut that potentially saved us 5 miles. It was not well marked, so it came with a risk of becoming lost in the middle of nowhere.  We trusted our navigation skills and took the shortcut.  This lead us into an interesting wash lined with gypsum deposits.  I relented, we had to stop and investigate.  While stopped and eating lunch, we were passed by one other vehicle which was the only one we encountered during this backcountry sortie.  Something to consider – it would have been a long walk back to town if something did go wrong with our vehicle.

We were not too far from our destination now.  Our maps indicated that we needed to park and hike to Little Finland.  Later we found out that this advice was not 100% true.  You can park at a corral and hike in, or continue to drive a few more miles and arrive at the flank of the formations.   No problem, the whole key to enjoying Little Finland is to climb up into it and around it.  You really don’t get much enjoyment just from gazing at it in the front seat.

The formations are red rock sandstone, wind sculpted and contorted.  They are similar to what you would see in Valley of Fire or Coyote Buttes AZ. These formations have thin “fins”, fragile plates, hoodoos and unexplainable shapes to tantalize any imagination.  It is a bonafide “rock garden”, and every step you take changes what you see.  Every twisted and delicate shape is different depending on where you stand.   I found myself beckoned to keep exploring and winding my way around the rocks.  Thankfully, I did not see evidence of human destruction or vandalism.  This place is amazing.

Another pleasant surprise were petroglyphs we found there.  We were not looking for them, but there they were.  According to the maps, there are several sites in this area.  There were also a few palm trees, standing sentinel upon areas which may have been running springs.

It was time for us to suffer the washboard back to Mesquite.  It was a day of discovery and wonder, we hope you find the time to make the trip someday. What is that I hear? It’s Nelson Miller on my shoulder, yelling in my ear “I want those maps!.” I scanned them and sent them with this article and I will post them on our website.   ~ Deb

Monday, 23 November 2020 22:27

2020 - Trip Report - Desert Explorers At Large

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Afton Canyon Water Crossing

The deep water crossing in Afton Canyon on the Mojave Road has been mostly filled in. We drove it on October 28 and the water level is 4”- 5” deep. There is a stockpile of rock near the repair indicating to me that the “fix” may be maintained. ~ John Marnell

Fire at Cerro Gordo

From The historic American Hotel, built in 1871, the Crapo House and the Ice House at Cerro Gordo burned down in 

what is thought to have been an electrical fire in an early morning fire on Monday, June 15, 2020. No injuries were reported, and the rest of the town is intact. Photo shows Alan and daughter Holiday at the mine site  ~ Alan Heller

Feline Visitor at the Stoll’s

Lookie who came to visit just about dusk on our back wall, looking hot and thirsty. Hope it found the water. We wonder if the heat or the fire or both brought it down. ~ Anne Stoll

Mr. Cool, Charlie Dupree

This is Charlie.  He is six years old and is a Tonkinese. He does high fives, hands up, and uses a toilet. He knows his name and several other words such as “wanna go for a walk?”,“Wanna fishie snack?” and “Wanna snack?”  ~ Jerry & Dolly Dupree


Craig Baker was wandering around

the Death Valley area and came home with some new photos and stories.

You’ll have to chase him down for the stories, but here are his photos.

Monday, 23 November 2020 22:24

2020 - Trip Report - The Wickers in Joshua Tree

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The Wickers in Joshua Tree

After 7 months without a desert outing, Ding and I recently took a day trip to Joshua Tree National Park. Lots of others had the same idea, but it was still possible to find some peace and quiet.

Monday, 23 November 2020 22:14

2020 - Trip Reports - Getting Our Desert Fix

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Getting Our Desert Fix

By Lindsay Woods

Growing up in Hesperia, I spent a lot of time out in the Mojave with my father and grandfathers. This taught me to appreciate the many things the desert has to offer. So, it’s that time of year when I enjoy being out in the desert. So, what’s a guy to do? Get a group of friends together and GET OUT THERE!

In early October I invited a few of my friends to join me in getting out and about for an overnight experience. I expected to have about 20 takers but was surprised when 51 people decided to join in. We headed out to an undisclosed facility in the Newberry Springs area on Friday, October 9th, had dinner and hung out with each other. Saturday after breakfast, we packed up and headed out in the general direction of the Alvord Mine for some exploring.

After helping some of our less experienced off-roaders to get unstuck and troubleshooting a few minor vehicle issues, we made it to Alvord Mine. According to

“The Alvord Consolidated Quartz Mining Company, in February, 1881, agreed to issue 75,000 shares of stock to raise money to develop their newly found mine, located about 20 miles east of Calico.

By April, 1885 work had begun. Ore was being hauled daily to Camp Cady where the existing Huntington Centrifugal Mill had recently been augmented with the addition of the Huntington five-stamp mill. Later reports indicate an arrastre was used to mill the ore at the very beginning. Ore was treated at Hawley’s, in addition to Camp Cady in the late 1880s.

In the early 1890s, a mill was built, probably at Alvord Well, at the mouth of the canyon below the mine, which ran until it burned in September, 1891. Alvord Mine figures for July and August, 1891, showed an assay of between $6 and $18 a ton in gold. During the last 10 days before the mill burned, $1,430 in bullion was produced. Total production of gold from the Alvord Mine up to that time was placed at $50,000.

The mine changed owners several times before a group of Pasadena businessmen, incorporated as the Carter Gold Mining Company, gained control of the property and operated it from 1885 until late 1891. This company owned the water rights for Paradise Springs, 9 miles north of the mine, and for Mule Spring 1 mile east. The water at Mule Spring is weakly saline and was used only for camp purposes. In 1895, considerable prospecting was done on the property and in order to test the ore, the Alvord Mining Company of Pasadena erected a five-stamp mill 2 miles from the mine, probably at the site of the burned mill.

From 1906 to 1910, the Alvord Mining Company of San Diego operated the mine and installed as six-stamp Nisson mill near the mine. The Tintic Bonanza Mining Company of Salt Lake City operated the mine from 1916 to 1920. Mr. McCormick, a resident of Yermo, was the owner in 1923 and planned to open the mine. In 1925, the Dell ‘Osso Gold Mining Company acquired the property and 6 claims were patented in 1931. The property was active for several months during 1932 and 1933, and was under lease to Roy Waughtel of Manix from December, 1950, to January, 1952. Since 1952, the property has been idle. The mill has been removed and one of the wooden buildings and a small bridge were burned in the early 1970s. Two stone buildings remained in the early 1970s.”

When we arrived at the mine after a few hours of exploring the surrounding area, we had lunch and the majority of the group headed into the mine for some underground exploration. I am always surprised how many of our local residents do not know much about our local history and the fascinating things do and see in the Mojave. It is always fun to introduce new people to the desert.

We returned to our camp location where we then did a little, well actuallyA LOT, of shooting before ending our day with an AWESOME tri-tip dinner. Following dinner we hit the road and returned home after another great time getting our desert fix. ~ Lindsay

Sunday, 22 November 2020 22:14

2020 - Trip Reports - Escaping the Fall Color Crowds

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Escaping the Fall Color Crowds

by Joeso

Sue and I thought it would be nice to lead a Fall Colors DE Trip in the Flagstaff area, maybe in 2021 when COVID is behind us? So, we were happy when folks in our “social bubble” including Ron, Mignon and Vicki said they’d like to join us for a pre-run this year. Before Sue and I could go, however, I needed to get the differential of our Skamper camper truck put back together. As last reported, all the required parts had been rounded up and I “just” needed to put it all together. This turned out to be quite a sensitive task. I had read on the internet about all the critical specs required, but not having a dial gauge, a 10 inch/pound torque wrench or electronic digital calipers, I had to use the old “feeler” gauge. When it felt right, I locked it in. Finally, with everything bolted back together and no spare parts left over, it was time to take it off the jacks and go for a test drive. But when I put it in gear to back out of the garage, it didn’t move. The differential seemed to be locked up and the truck wouldn’t move forward or reverse. I was nearing panic mode when I finally realized I had forgotten to remove the safety blocks that were securely placed around the front wheels. Luckily, with the blocks removed everything checked out OK and the truck performed well during the trip.

The Fall colors in the Flagstaff area are spectacular, but so are the hordes of people enjoying the colors. Snowbowl Road has some outstanding color but there are so many people enjoying it that it was really hard to

find a spot to park. Even the 4WD road into Lockett Meadow was jammed with all kinds of cars. When we finally reached Lockett Meadows, it was so crowded that we just turned around and skedaddled. Fortunately, we had several interesting spots to check out that thankfully had not been recently written up in “Arizona Highways.” 

North of Flagstaff we found the old Red Butte Airfield. This was the site of the first scenic flights over the Grand Canyon which began in 1927 and eventually made use of Ford Tri-Motor airplanes. In those days there was a “Great House” adjacent to the airfield that rivaled the El Tovar Lodge. At the time of our visit, the old hanger and several out buildings were still standing.

On day two we stopped for a pleasant lunch at Hull Cabin, just a short ways from the Grand Canyon South Rim. The cabin and barn were constructed with hand-hewn logs put together by the William Hull family in the 1880s. The property was acquired by the Forest Service in 1907 and used for a short while as a ranger station.

Our most unique find was the Grandview Lookout Tower built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1936. The 80 foot steel tower is still very sturdy and affords quite a view from the top.

After leaving our dispersed camp on day three we warmed up with a hike into Gold Pond and Sycamore Falls in Sycamore Canyon, the second largest canyon in Arizona redrock country. The creek flowing through Sycamore Canyon is a tributary of the Verde River. We found the best Fall color in Sycamore Canyon and no one else was around.

Our kind of place.

There is a very scenic Verde Canyon Railroad trestle just west of Perkinsville.

A wonderful old plaque riveted on it indicated it was constructed in 1898 and refurbished in 1928.

East of Ashfork we found two railroad dams constructed by the Santa Fe to provide water for their non condensing steam engines. One dam was very rare, being only 1 of 3 steel dams constructed and the last one in use. The Ashfork-Bainbridge Steel Dam was built in 1898 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Half a mile away is the Stone Dam constructed in 1911 using huge blocks of pink sandstone. There was significant water behind both dams. 

Quite a find for us was the JD Cabin and homestead deep in the Kaibab Forest. The site was purportedly settled by James Douglas in the 1870s. A cabin and barn were still standing.

And of course we drove Old Route 66 both coming and going. It is always a pleasure.

So please plan to join us when

we can finally use what we have learned and do an official trip, hopefully next Fall. ~ Joeso

Sunday, 22 November 2020 22:10

2020 - Trip Report - South to Durango

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South to Durango

by Axel Heller

After spending three nights in Yellowstone, we headed south along

US 191 into Colorado. Near I-80, we observed four smoke plumes coming from the Rocky Mountain range. We learned that these fires had been burning for at least two weeks but we were going to bypass the fires to the west.

We passed the east side of Flaming Gorge Reservoir in Utah; the reds were just awesome. Mother Nature just outdid herself with the landscaping that we were driving through. Our goal was to spend the night in Grand Junction, but the smoke from the fires looked denser further south, so we pulled into a Colorado State Park, Highline Lake for the night. About 9:00 p.m. we looked out and saw the red glow of fire. Our thoughts were that it was really close, but our depth perception was poor in the night and it turned out to be about 40 miles away in the mountains. Our decision to camp about five miles out of Grand Junction turned out to be the best choice. Grand Junction had a dense haze/smoke layer, and later they actually closed I-70 due to smoke/visibility. Our real adventure for the day started when we took US-550 from Ouray to Red Mountain pass.

Ouray Named after Chief Ouray of the Ute Nation. Chief Ouray tried to settle peacefully with the settlers and made several treaties with the US and he met with Presidents Lincoln and Grant in those endeavors. Chief Ouray realized that fighting the US was not beneficial for the Ute Nation and gave up 

several million acres of prime real estate and not lose his people in battle.

What gets your attention is the Historic Main Street District, US-550. The town was incorporated in 1876 and had over thirty active mines. The Camp Bird Mine was the second largest mine in Colorado and by 1906 produced over one million troy ounces of gold and four million troy ounces of silver. Ouray also has several developed hot springs pools. The town bills itself as the Switzerland of America, due to climate and environment and being surrounded by three walls of the canyon. I do plan sometime in the future to return without COVID and my RV hindering my ability to park.

Million Dollar Highway Leaving Ouray, we took US-550, the Million Dollar Highway. The disputed name comes from legends that it cost $1,000,000 per mile to build in the 1920’s, or that $1,000,000 of gold ore was used as fill. I can also add that it may cost over $1,000,000 to maintain per mile each year.

The road is about twelve miles to the Red Mountain Pass of 11,018 feet, but there is a 10% grade, narrow two lane road with hairpin turns and NO guardrails!! There was construction to repair many areas where the road bed fell down the canyon. Prior to becoming US 550 in the 1920s, there were two toll roads built in 1880s towards Silverton. The road after Red Mountain Pass was smooth to Silverton, total mileage from Ouray to Silverton is 23 miles. We bypassed Silverton and continued onwards to Durango.

Durango I will call Durango a “Modern Historic Town.” Modern because it has all of the conveniences of a city (Walmart & TRAFFIC), but has a section of the 1880’s preserved. This historic section is where the Durango-Silverton Train Depot is located.

I took the Durango-Silverton Railroad in August 1978. I was leading a group of Explorer Scouts on a backpack into the San Juan Mountains. We exited the train at one of two designated spots for backpackers and disappeared into the wilderness. Our tickets were open ended and we could be picked up 

anywhere along the line, just need to be sighted by the track inspector to radio back for pick-up. This year, due to COVID, the train only ran about one-third of the track, so Silverton will again be part of a future trip.

The train museum is not just about the train system, but a history of the town. There are two train engines, luxurious train cars (owned by the president of the railroad), and rail maintenance cars, with an operating HO train model of the local area and Diorama displays of the early mines and smaller towns. I enjoyed the recruiting poster for Pancho Villa. Overhead was

a replica of the first airplane that landed in Durango. There was lot of small-town history crammed into a small space.

When the day comes that things finally get back to the “Old Normal”,

I hope to return to this scenic area, take the train on a round trip to Silverton and be a tourist in Ouray. ~ Axel

Mal, Mignon  and Joaquin Utah Trip

by Mignon Slentz

 Mal Roode, Mignon and Joaquin Slentz made up our small group that journeyed to northeast Utah. We saw rock art, waterways and historic ranches. The weather was perfect, fall colors were showing and we camped under the full moon.

Starvation Reservoir is a sprawling body of water four miles northwest of Duchesne.

We had the place ourselves and enjoyed a beautiful sunset. Unfortunately the area was littered.

The McConkie Ranch, located in Dry Fork Canyon, northwest of Vernal was our next stop. These petroglyphs are world renown and show trapezoidal body shapes. The trails take you up to view nine foot tall figures. This is on private land and a five dollar group donation is appreciated.

I was really looking forward to showing off the Swett Ranch but the buildings were closed for the season. Mal was still able to capture a cabin’s interior through the window.

Next to an old dugout is a plaque that says Butch Cassidy and his gang used it for a hideout. The next morning we crossed over the Green River on an old suspension bridge and enjoyed the scenery through Crouse Canyon.

Later we entered Nine Mile Road and proceeded into the canyon. Nine Mile Canyon is famous for its well preserved rock art. “The Great Hunt” panel is world famous and includes at least 30 bighorn sheep and eight anthropomorphs that have been interpreted as a communal hunt.

We camped at the ranch on grass under shaded trees and were allowed to have a campfire. The three dollar hot showers were wonderful. There are also cabins for rent.

Our last night we camped in the yard of a friend near Panguitch and I made grilled cheese sandwiches 

We honestly needed a couple more days to see everything. Mal took most of the photos! ~ Mignon

Sunday, 22 November 2020 21:29

2020 - Trip Report - Rock Art in Kyrgyszstan

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Rock Art in Kyrgyszstan

Photos by Allan Wicker

Here a few photos I took of rock art in Kyrgyzstan 20 years ago, when Ding and I were teaching there.  I was surprised to see that some of the figures look very similar to what we see in our own Southwest.  ~ Allan

Sunday, 22 November 2020 21:24

2020 - Trip Reports - Broken Down

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Broken Down

 by Bob Jaussaud

We were in the middle of nowhere in high Nevada last July trying to find an old mine. While heading up an especially gnarly canyon road in low-range 4wd with our e-locker engaged, there was a loud bang that came from our rear differential and forward motion ceased. Our faithful old Nissan Nismo with its Skamper camper was broken and we were in the wilds of Nevada without even the advantage of cell service.

Fortunately Sue and I had not come on this trip alone. We were exploring with a few other crazy Desert Explorers (Ron, Glenn, Mignon and Robin). I can’t over-stress how important and comforting it was that they were with us.

Anyway, we still had the use of our front differential so we tried to continue. After much clanking and slipping, our front wheels finally got traction and we started moving in the desired direction. Thankfully it was only a short way to the Mohawk Mine where we found a better road leading out. Our goal that evening had been to camp along Cottonwood Creek. Our intended route was not possible with front wheel drive only so we had to detour through Silver Peak and follow pavement north to Nevada’s “Loneliest Road” (Highway 6). We reached Cottonwood in time for a very late, but wonderful, happy hour. The next morning Sue and I limped home with just our front wheel drive.

Being inherently thrifty, I decided to try and repair the truck myself. Over two months later (at this writing) our truck is still apart. But, there is hope! Turns out I had stripped the splines on a rear axle when a side gear in the e-locker broke. Ouch! It turns out that one cannot buy just a side gear. The Dana Nissan e-locker is sold as a complete unit only. Double ouch! I thought about welding up the old broken side gear and modifying a Nissan Titan axle to fit, but Steve Marschke and Bill Gossett talked me out of that foolishness. So I shook the moths out of my wallet and now have the required new parts. But there’s a story there too.

I shop the internet a lot and I found a site that had the new e-locker needed for  considerably less than the competition. However, when attempting an order the site would not work on my computer. So, I ended up calling C&M Gear in Missouri to try and place the order. The man I spoke to had a very heavy Ozark accent that I could barely comprehend. I thought he said, “Sure, I’ll take the order” so I gave him my name, address and credit card information. He could evidently understand my accent all right as, without repeating anything back to me, he said something like, “OK. It will be in the mail this afternoon” and ended the phone call. I wondered if I had just been scammed. An anxious hour later, another man (with the same accent) called. Our credit card hadn’t gone through. With corrected information, his call abruptly ended. He did, though, call back a short time later to say it had gone through OK. At this point I had the belated presence of mind to ask for a receipt. He said he would send me the tracking number and again ended the call. Sure enough, a few minutes later I got a text with a photo of a USPS (not UPS or FedEx) mailing label, but nothing else, no receipt, no nothing. I was not very assured and told Sue I may have been “had.” To make a long story short, I was extremely relieved when the part arrived quickly, as promised and as represented. So, when you need fourwheeling parts you might consider C&M Gearing. I will use them again. Who needs a receipt?

With the new e-locker in hand I started looking for a new axle. I finally found the hard-to-find, discontinued axle I needed at a Phoenix Nissan dealer but, of course, it was pricey. Triple ouch! However, they shipped USPS (what’s with that?) and we got an email receipt. Now that the new axle has arrived, as promised, I feel the hard part is over.

I just need to quarantine myself in the garage and put it all together. So, letsall get past this Covid thing and go camping. I think we’ll be ready! ~ Joeso

Jeeping in Southeastern Arizona

by Ellen Miller

I’ve been hanging out in Benson Arizona this winter which extended way into summer due to the Covid-19. The RV park I’m at has a Jeep group, with Rubicons and other small 4WD vehicles, which goes out usually once a week in the surrounding areas. Once they learned I know how to drive 4WD roads in my Tacoma, thank you Nelson, I was good to drive most any of the trips. On occasion the leaders have decided my much longer wheel base won’t make it and I have gone with someone in their Jeep. However, they have also determined my Tacoma is good for hauling back saguaro ribs and other items for placement in the park.

We have explored a number of the ghost towns and mines around the Tombstone area. Sometimes easy drives and other times over more challenging and narrow roads. 

One day we went to Council Rocks in the Dragoon Mountains which is on the National Register of Historic Places. This may have been the location Cochise finally made peace with the Americans in 1872. This was definitely a meeting place for the Apache as the pictographs and mortar holes indicate. The huge boulders creating several shelter locations were awesome to see and explore.

Another day included a stop at the Dragoon Springs stage station on the Overland Mail route between San Antonio and San Diego, also listed on the National Register of Historic Places. This was only one of the 200 stations along the 2700 mile route. This section of the route was frequently referred to as the ‘Jackass Mail’ due to mules being used to pull the coaches and passengers were at times packed on mule back in crossing the deserts. Construction on the station began in 1858. Mail service along this route ended in 1861 due tothe Civil War. A lot of work went into setting up and constructing this route for a rather short time for using the route. There were several Confederate graves at this location as well from a battle between Confederate troops and Apaches in 1862. A fun stop to explore.

Yet another trip was to Aravaipa Canyon from the east. This included a drive into the canyon crossing the creek several times. As this was in the early spring we enjoyed all the new spring green. Lunch and our turnaround point was at Turkey Creek Cliff Dwelling,a nice Salado ruin from the 1300s.

I’ve been fortunate to join up with this fun group while in Benson and look forward to many more trips with them.

                               ~ Ellen

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